Nigeria’s Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, says the emergence of Co-Chair for the Joint Border Post will strengthen bilateral relationships and ensure the facility meets the March 31 handover deadline.
Saraki, during the inspection of the joint border facility at Seme-Krake on Monday, added that the deadline for the facility handover was set by the European Union.
The co-chair for both countries include Mrs Agalasi Ehigie, Director Road Transport and Mass Transit Administration, Federal Ministry of Transportation for Nigeria and Mr Ani-Toure Lamine for the Republic of Benin.
Saraki, represented by Ehigie, noted that the lockdown imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the elevation of the previous co-chair had affected and slowed down work at the post.
She admonished border agencies that though the task at hand was quite challenging, their cooperation and synergy must be at optimum for effective operationalisation.
“I commend the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) Commission for dedicatedly taking this project to the present stage.
“This is as they work toward achieving better regional integration and reducing trade, administrative and financial barriers to road transport in West Africa, particularly along the Abidjan-Lagos corridor.
“There is no doubt that the commission has worked assiduously to facilitate the full implementation of this impressive project.
“And so, the main objectives of this visit it to inspect the facilities, note the condition and state of completion of the amenities and verify how best the ministry can assist the border agencies to create an enabling environment for full operationalisation of the post.’’
Saraki added that when fully operational, the post would simplify customs procedure, encourage sharing of data and intelligence as well as improve cooperation and coordinate controls.
She added that it would step up the fight against illegal transit of contraband, weapons and cross-border fraud; promote lawful entry and exit which was essential for national security and reduce strain on border facilities.
Also, Lamine pointed out that the meeting would help the two countries analyse things at the border post and ensure success of the post.
“There are some difficulties at the border post which has to do with scanners, lighting issues and others but I believe that this meeting will help resolve them.
“We take the joint border post very seriously because we know that it will help facilitate movement of goods and persons and integration of the two countries,” he said.
Mr Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) , in his remark said that the council had established a Border Information Centre (BIC) whereby they monitor activities of trade at the border.
Bello, represented by Mr Celestine Akujobi, Deputy Director, Stakeholders Service of NSC, noted that this was geared toward trade facilitation operationalisation and ease of doing business.
“Since the opening of the BIC at the border, there has been an increase in trade by the report we have been getting periodically and we are hopeful that the coming of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), trade will increase.
“The coming of AfCFTA is also a good reason to strengthen trade between the two countries so that they can reap the benefits,” he said.
During the tour of the facilities, Comptroller Mohammed Jibo, Customs officer-in-charge of Seme Border, itemised issues that should be looked into to enhance smooth operations.
According to him, they include bad scanner, upgrade of toilet and illuminating .